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PineIsle Resort to be leveled to make room for $100 million hotel

POSTED: April 4, 2008 5:01 a.m.
TOM REED/The Times

Demolition has begun on the old PineIsle Resort at Lake Lanier Islands.

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BUFORD — When it opened 34 years ago, the PineIsle Resort was the crown jewel of Lake Lanier. The hotel was the first major venue at Lake Lanier Islands and continued to be a popular destination for both tourists and conventions.

The 254-room hotel went through a succession of owners. The final one, Marriott Corp., closed the hotel on Nov. 4, 2005. The terms of the lease of the remaining portion of the islands gave control of the closed PineIsle to Gwinnett businessman Virgil Williams, who holds the 50-year lease of the islands.

The hotel was dated, and its rooms were smaller than what is demanded for luxury hotel guests.

"Based on what I know of the financials and the condition of the facility, the PineIsle’s closure was inevitable," Williams said at the time. "The hotel has passed its prime. She had a great run, but the future looks even brighter."

Following Hurricane Katrina, Williams pitched PineIsle as a temporary location for a business displaced by the storm, but there were no takers.

In May 2006, Williams held a public sale of the hotel’s contents, where buyers snapped up beds, televisions and catering supplies at sale prices. Earlier this year, crews began dismantling the interior of the Y-shaped hotel.

This week, the PineIsle will come tumbling down. Demolition crews are expected to begin their work this week. The destruction of the hotel is being done with caution because of the building’s close proximity to the shoreline of Lake Lanier.

Williams, who assumed the lease in 2005, has been involved in extensive planning of the future of the 1,100-acre resort.

The plans call for a $100 million five-star resort to be built on the site. Williams envisions a rustic but luxurious hotel that would cater to tourists and meetings. He is said to be looking for a hotel partner to join him in the major venture.

One thing that could speed up the process is a bill pending in the Georgia General Assembly that would give a tax break for large expansions of tourist attractions.

The bill is similar to a proposal that was passed by the General Assembly in 2007 but later was vetoed by Gov. Sonny Perdue.

Under the proposal, new attractions of more than $25 million or expansion of existing attractions totaling more than $10 million would result in a refund of the sales and use tax of up to 25 percent of the value of the project.

Under the proposal, the developer of the island hotel would receive a $2.5 million tax refund for up to 10 years.

Shawn Davis, a spokesman for Lake Lanier Islands Management Co., said previously that the bill, if passed, would cause investments at Lake Lanier Islands to be made in a shorter time frame.

In 2007, Williams began a major face lift at the island’s other hotel, Emerald Pointe Resort that included updating the guest rooms and hallways and a major overhaul of the entrance and lobby.

The $25 million project is expected to be competed in May, when Williams is planning a grand re-opening of the Emerald Pointe.



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